There are worse things than having behaved foolishly in public.
There are worse things than these miniature betrayals,
committed or endured or suspected; there are worse things
than not being able to sleep for thinking about them.
It is 5 a.m. All the worse things come stalking in
and stand icily about the bed looking worse and worse and worse.
This is by Fleur Adcock. She wrote it in December 1973 – right in the middle of the Winter of Discontent. As she says in “Poem for the Day 2” (where I spotted it): “There were power cuts, a rail strike, shortages of every kind (a note in my diary on the 15th says that I managed to buy the last oil lamo in East Finchley). I had a cold, an elderly friend had just died, and all was bleak. The occasion for the poem was probably some minor cause for embarrassment that was keeping me awake, bet then all the more serious matters came crowding in. I thought other people would recognise the sentiments.”
But then, you read something like this and look out of the window on a nice sunny day, and think about the walk you’re going to have by the river or the lovely family you’re about to see, and it seems a little silly to let those things come stalking in. I love this poem. You can read it in a funny way too. It makes me feel better.
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Tagged andrew motion, depression, discontent, east finchley, fleur adcock, nature, night, outdoors, poem, poems, poetry, sadness, things, travel, vacation, verse, weather, winter
I was in Waterstones thinking about a friend who was a little bit blue before Christmas. Not badly, just a little bit. I wandered over to the poetry section to play lottery – you know, when you choose a book at random and a page at random to see if you get a message. This was the one I found. It has delighted, comforted and inspired me by turns since then. It’s an excerpt from Call Me by My True Names by modern Buddhist poet Thich Nhat Hanh, and it’s about… well, you work it out:
The Good News
They don’t publish
the good news.
The good news is published
We have a special edition every moment,
and we need you to read it.
The good news is that you are alive,
and the linden tree is still there,
standing firm in the harsh Winter.
The good news is that you have wonderful eyes
to touch the blue sky.
The good news is that your child is there before you,
and your arms are available:
hugging is possible.
They only print what is wrong.
Look at each of our special editions.
We always offer the things that are not wrong.
We want you to benefit from them
and help protect them.
The dandelion is there by the sidewalk,
smiling its wondrous smile,
singing the song of eternity.
Listen! You have ears that can hear it.
Bow your head.
Listen to it.
Leave behind the world of sorrow
and get free.
The latest good news
is that you can do it.
— Thich Nhat Hanh
“I love sleep. My life has the tendency to fall apart when I’m awake, you know?”
“Every man’s life ends the same way. It is only the details of how he lived and how he died that distinguish one man from another.”
“The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places.”
Ernest Hemingway. Photo by Karsh Yousuf